Truth and Consequences: The Fast and Furious Debacle
December 14, 2010 Brian Terry, a U.S. Border Control Agent, was brutally murdered during a fierce gun battle while protecting Arizona’s borders. His spine was severed by the bullet of an AK-47. The grief of Terry’s parents over losing their son in such a brutal way has been compounded by the news that our Federal Government, through a program called Fast and Furious, intentionally put at least two of the weapons found at the crime scene into the hands of his murderers.
You may not have heard much about how this federal operation started until recently, as for some reason most of the major news media chose to ignore this story for the last year – even though its had quite a few twists and turns. Everything from whistleblowers to the U.S. Attorney General’s conflicting statements and now the President’s use of executive privilege to keep documents from the investigating committee; all make for a fascinating read. But even more importantly, it leads to the question, what IS the truth surrounding Terry’s death and this now infamous gun-walking scheme and WHY has the Department of Justice been dragging its feet in allowing the truth to be known?
Fast and Furious was run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agency (ATF) from September 2009 to January 2011; ATF is under the direction of Attorney General Eric Holder’s Department of Justice (DOJ). This sting operation was supposed to lead law enforcement to the kingpins of the Mexican drug cartels by allowing U.S. weapons to be sold to suspected criminals and then allow those firearms to cross the border into Mexico. The gun dealers, though reluctant to make the sales at first, eventually agreed and promptly reported each transaction as instructed to the ATF.
Almost immediately some of these weapons were showing up at violent crime scenes in Mexico. Extremely concerned, ATF Special Agent John Dodson warned his supervisors that Operation Fast and Furious could someday take the life of one of their own officers. His concerns became reality when Brian Terry was murdered. This led Dodson to repeatedly contact the ATF Office of Professional Responsibility but to no avail. He eventually “blew the whistle” and got help from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
An investigation by Congress was initiated to uncover the truth regarding Terry’s death and this gun-walking operation. The DOJ initially denied the existence of Operation Fast and Furious in a February 14, 2011 letter to Sen. Grassley and Rep. Darrel Issa, Chairman of the Committee on Oversight & Government Reform. When later evidence showed that the DOJ did indeed know about the operation they acknowledged the letter was inaccurate.
On October 12, 2011 the investigating committee issued a subpoena for documents that would provide the Terry family with answers. The DOJ has identified 140,000 pages of documents and communications related to this operation, yet the DOJ has only turned over 7600 pages. (And they originally said the operation didn’t exist. Seriously, how is that possible with this much paper work?)
Issa has repeatedly met with Holder, trying to get at the truth and put this case to rest. It is against the law to sell guns to criminals and apparently hundreds of them were sold anyways and NOT even tracked, meaning that assault-type weapons will be on the streets of Mexico and probably the U.S. for years to come. How many more of these “lost” weapons will we find tied to crime scenes in our Southwestern states?
Since Holder has refused for months to turn over the subpoenaed documents, the House of Representatives had no choice but to take up a vote to hold him in contempt. However, one last meeting was scheduled on June 19, 2012 in an effort to avoid this vote. Here is what Holder asked for during this meeting in return for handing over a small subset of documents: (1) permanently cancel the contempt vote; (2) agree the Department was in full compliance with the Committee’s subpoenas, and; (3) that Issa accept the subset of documents sight unseen. Whoa! The Attorney General wants to cut a deal! Not so fast! Let’s read the mission statement from the Department of Justice’s own website:
“To enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.”
Was the law enforced, the public safe, and crime controlled in Operation Fast and Furious? It doesn’t appear to have been but how do we know for sure without all of the information being made available to Congress.
Needless to say Issa refused to accept Holder’s conditions from June 19. Then minutes before the contempt vote on June 20, 2012, President Obama asserted executive privilege, at Holder’s request, essentially preventing Congress from getting the requested information. One week later, Holder made history by being the first sitting Cabinet member ever held in contempt. The vote was 255-67 with 17 Democrats joining the Republican majority.
The use of executive privilege by Obama was particularly stunning due to the fact that on numerous occasions the President insisted that he was not informed of Fast and Furious and neither were any White House personnel. Since one of the purposes of executive privilege is to protect the relationship between the President and his closest advisors when discussing sensitive issues, how can the President invoke this privilege regarding Fast and Furious when by his own admission he didn’t know about the operation? What are these two men trying to hide in these documents? Are these two very powerful public servants upholding the laws of our country, as they swore to do, or are they trying to cover up unlawful behavior?
As Congress has doggedly pursued answers in this case, they have been accused of wasting taxpayer money on something that is political. Yet what should they do; ignore contradictory statements and hard evidence that seems to support a cover up by our own Attorney General? I would hope not. Where was the concern for the taxpayer’s money when the DOJ spent 5 years prosecuting Roger Clemens for possible use of performance-enhancing drugs during his baseball career?  Which do you think the American public worries more about at night – untracked criminals armed with automatic weapons roaming our borders and communities (courtesy of the Federal Government), or a sports figure’s steroid use?
The wife of the Fast and Furious whistle blower recently said in regards to the grueling consequences they’ve had to endure:
“John had to come forward,” Keri Dodson said. “The way we were both brought up, truth is the ultimate. Truth may hurt. It may sting. It may be hard to deal with. To lie or not tell truth because you are worried about money is just not something that we do.”
Just days ago, on June 25, 2012, Darrel Issa wrote a letter to President Obama. Here is one very interesting comment from Issa:
“Accordingly, your privilege assertion means one of two things. Either you or your most senior advisors were involved in managing Operation Fast & Furious and the fallout from it, including the false February 4, 2011 letter provided by the Attorney General to the Committee, or, you are asserting a Presidential power that you know to be unjustified solely for the purpose of further obstructing a congressional investigation. To date, the White House has steadfastly maintained that it has not had any role in advising the Department with respect to the congressional investigation.”
In reading this I can only come to one of two conclusions: The President is either a liar or covering for a liar. He either knew about Fast and Furious but denied it or he’s trying to cover up for someone else’s unlawful actions by using executive privilege when it does not legally apply to this investigation. Neither one is acceptable to me. Now you must choose, when you vote this November 2012, if they are acceptable to you. Do you want an administration and candidates who see themselves as above the law or do you want people who are TRUE law-abiding public servants? Choose carefully – the consequences of this election are immense.